PLAYING ATLANTA: Half Hot Go All The Way with Debut LP ‘Whiskey Tango’

Flair, hair, and all things rock ‘n roll.

It’s a simple statement, impactful and to the point… and it describes Half Hot perfectly. The Atlanta-based rock quartet – made up of Andrew “Goose” Hughes on guitar and vocals, Tyler Messer on guitar and backing vocals, drummer and percussionist Jacob Hicks, and Casey Reid on the bass and “sweet ass harmonies” – was founded in the far-flung corners of North Georgia before migrating south to the swing of the big city. Together, they combine the sheer drama of bands like Foxy Shazam with the dramatic rock overtones of The Darkness. The result is an all-encompassing experience that lifts listeners out of 2019 and back to the age of hair bands, Spandex, and arena rock.

Audiofemme caught up with the quartet as they prep for the release of their first music video, which arrives on August 3rd, to talk all things music, performance, and their shameless love of Lady Gaga and ’90s boy bands.

AF: If you had to describe Half Hot in three words, how would you do it? 

HH: Raw energy and flair.

AF: How did Half Hot form? Were you guys always involved in music, or was it something you grew into? 

HH: Andrew, Tyler and Jacob met and started playing together in bands through college, one of which was Whiskey Tango. While that was going on, Andrew was also in a band with Casey Reid and Caleb Little of Wet Jeans. Whiskey Tango spent several years only performing once or twice a year. Plagued by line-up changes, we fell into a musical rut and didn’t venture far outside of our comfort zone. Lightning seemed to strike as we collectively decided that no one was going to give us what we wanted. We were going to have to get way outside of the comfortable place we had nestled into, while remaining true to ourselves. 

After working with several talented bassists over the past few years, we had found ourselves once again with a sudden opening for a bassist. After several discussions, one name kept coming up: Casey Reid. As if one major change wasn’t enough, we decided that with our growth and evolution over the past few years, we needed to shed the Whiskey Tango moniker in favor of a name that we felt summed up our ‘serious about music, but not so serious about ourselves’ approach. That’s how we got to Half Hot. 

AF: Did you ever imagine yourselves playing in a band? 

JH: Absolutely not. But I guess it was inevitable – I was always drumming on stuff growing up. 

AH: After I saw Led Zeppelin’s concert footage [in] The Song Remains the Same, I couldn’t imagine doing anything but performing.  

TM: Yeah, as a child I’d tell anyone that would listen that I was going to be in a rock band.

CR: From the moment I picked up an instrument and began learning a fire was lit to perform.

AF: Who do you consider to be your greatest inspirations? Your most surprising inspiration? 

JH: John Bonham, Keith Moon, Levon Helm are my greatest inspirations. My most surprising inspiration would be Jason Isbell’s influence on my songwriting.

AH: Freddie Mercury, Jimi Page, Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) and Ric Flair. ’90s country music’s influence on my playing has to be the most surprising to me.

TM: Dennis Casey (Flogging Molly), Andrew Stockdale (Wolfmother), Kyle Shutt (The Sword). My most surprising would probably be the ’90s power pop influence I somehow picked up.

CR: Cake would be my greatest influence and my most surprising would have to be Paul McCartney’s influence.

AF: What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to music?

JH: Ke$ha, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna.

AH: I would say Lady Gaga, but there’s no shame in that game.

TM: Seal – that shit SLAPS!

CR: ’90s boy bands.

 AF: You just released a brand new album, Whiskey Tango, on April 27th. Can you tell us about writing the album and the recording process? Is it cooperative, or does one of you tend to come in with a finished idea? 

HH: It was a long, arduous process bringing this record to life. We attempted to record the album two times previously and ran into some roadblock or another in the process. Apparently, the third time was the charm and now we have the record out for the world to hear. We’re cooperative when it comes to songwriting. Someone will come in with an idea, we’ll flesh it out on our given instruments, give it a tweak here and there, do some constructive criticism and then rehearse and see if it needs further adjustments.

AF: How has the writing process evolved since you formed?

HH: We’ve gotten more efficient at it! We’re definitely more comfortable writing with each other now than when we began. The ideas flow more smoothly and the constructive criticism is better received. 

AF: What was your proudest moment while working on this album? The most challenging? 

JH: My proudest moment was getting a drum track finished in one take! The most challenging was pretty much everything else – there was always some obstacle or issue in the process.

AH: My proudest was writing and tracking the lead guitar section of “Higher Ground” in one take, and getting the harmony vocals where I wanted them rather smoothly! The most challenging for me was getting vocal takes I was completely happy with.

TM: The proudest was getting the ideas for the call and response solos in “It Won’t Be Me” together and it coming out so well, and also watching Andrew nail double-tracked vocals. The most challenging for me seemed to be the roadblocks and issues each time we went in.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys since forming Half Hot?

HH: Selling out our album release show was absolutely, mind-blowingly surreal.

AF: You guys are based in Canton, just outside of Atlanta, which is further proof that the Atlanta music scene has grown and spread out. What’s it like to be a part of such a booming scene? 

HH: It’s Awesome! The camaraderie between bands is amazing. Every time we walk in a green room at any given venue, we always walk out with new friends in this ever-expanding circle.

AF: Favorite place to grab a drink and catch a show? 

JH: Eddie’s Attic.

AH: Smith’s Olde Bar or The Star Bar.

TM: Smith’s Olde Bar or The Masquerade.

AF: What are you guys listening to lately? 

JH: James Brown and Coheed & Cambria are my go-tos on Spotify. In my car I’m currently listening to Lucero’s Live at Terminal West.

AH: Queen and Prince are always mainstays. I’ve been throwing in some Foxy Shazam, and The Darkness recently too.

TM: I’m usually listening to The Sword, Wolfmother, Flogging Molly or Lucero. I’ve also been digging on The Black Keys, The Ides of June, The Dround Hounds, Casket Creatures, Royal Blood, and All Them Witches, recently.

CR: Early ’00s pop-punk, Jimmy Eat World, Lucky Boy’s Confusion, Lit, and Eve6, with some ’70s funk thrown in to mix it up!

AF: Last one! What’s next for Half Hot? 

HH: We’re getting material together for our next record and expanding our area of influence in the southeast. We also have a video for our song “Nowhere,” directed and filmed by Garrett Drake, being premiered August 3rd at our show at 529 in East Atlanta Village. 

Keep up with Half Hot on Facebook and check out the trailer for “Nowhere” now.

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